The Food and Drug Administration permits ingredients deemed Generally Recognized as Safe, or GRAS, to be added to foods. Current agency rules allow companies using a food additive to self-affirm its GRAS status—without making any safety data public.

Due to this "secret GRAS" loophole, industry can decide that a chemical is safe—and start using it in your food—without any independent review.

CSPI's position is that it's the FDA’s job to review the data and decide what’s safe, and that it should make GRAS decisions mandatory and public, not voluntary and secret.

Until the law and the FDA's rules are updated, consumers have to decide for themselves what food additives they consider acceptable. CSPI helps make this easier by maintaining Chemical Cuisine—an evidence-based, one-stop list of current food additives with safety ratings.

We also keep a list of additives that have been banned for use in food products due to safety concerns.

Graphic of an apple being injected by several syringes.

Food additives: the definitive glossary

Chemical cuisine

CSPI began compiling Chemical Cuisine in the 1970s. Now an online database, this glossary of food additives is a comprehensive, up-to-date list of what's in your food and how safe each ingredient is.

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An ingredients label

CSPI's clean labeling campaign

Consumers have gotten the message: There are unsafe and poorly tested chemicals in everyday foods and beverages. As concern grows, shoppers are increasingly demanding foods and beverages that are free from concerning additives.

Companies have responded to these consumer demands by offering “clean label” foods. But because industry’s clean labels campaigns are not always centered around safety, consumers are confused about what “clean label” means.

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